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You’re an only child?

September 16th, 2010

People with no siblings are spoiled, bossy, maladjusted, selfish and weird.

Franklin Roosevelt, Condoleezza Rice, Lance Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley are just a few of those people. I don’t think of them bossy or selfish, and they certainly don’t seem maladjusted. Lance and Elvis might be a little weird, but I doubt that has anything to do with being only children. Then again, I’m probably a little biased because I’m also an only child.

Inevitably, several times a year I’ll have to introduce myself and share an interesting fact. I must not be a very interesting person because I can never think of anything. I used to offer up the fact that I’m an only child, but decided that needed to stop because as soon as people discovered that I didn’t have any siblings they began to make assumptions. People who already knew me would say, “Really Katie, you don’t have any brothers or sisters? You don’t seem like an only child.”

I take that as a compliment. Only children are obviously spoiled. Their parents have only one kid to spend all their hard earned money on, but that doesn’t automatically make us all brats or make our parents incredibly wealthy. My parents expected me to make my own money so as soon as I turned 16, I got a job.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t always great at sharing, but when I was born my parents both worked full-time, so I started attending daycare when I was only five-weeks-old. This meant that every day I was surrounded by at least ten kids and had to share everything from snacks to building blocks.

But here is the really big news, it turns out I’m not the only single child who turned out all right. In fact, the whole notion of us being bossy and maladjusted began in 1896 with a study conducted by Granville Stanley Hall. He gave us a bad name and called our only child lifestyle a “disease.”

Toni Falbo, a professor of educational psychology and sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, is also an only child and read Hall’s studies. Then she decided to begin conducting a little research of her own. According to Time Magazine, she and colleague Denise Polit conducted a meta-analysis of 115 studies of only children. They looked at how the children learned to adjust, build character, become social, perform in school, and their overall intelligence. And the results, well they say that only children “aren’t measurably different from other kids — except that they, along with firstborns and people who have only one sibling, score higher in measures of intelligence and achievement.”

So it looks like the stereotypes are somewhat accurate. We might be kind of weird and different, but that isn’t a negative, and along with firstborns, we are apparently more intelligent. 

This is not to say that only children are better. I’m sure Jon and Kate Gosselin would want to contest that statement. I just want you to know that yes, we’re spoiled. However, if we’re weird or maladjusted it has little to do with being an only child and let’s be honest, everyone is a little selfish and bossy no matter how many siblings you have.